Image Courtesy of John Fedorowicz
The Winery has Championed Paso Robles Since its Days as a Cow Town.
Though today it’s a globally recognized wine country full of stylish tasting rooms and lined with vines as far as the eye can see, Paso Robles, California, was little more than a dusty cowboy town when Chuck and Marilyn Hope bought land to plant vineyards here in 1978. Four decades later, Hope Family Wines produces a wide range of internationally distributed brands that are respected for both quality and affordability as well as market-leading creativity.
“We became one of the larger farmers in the area,” explains their son, Austin Hope, who went from a kid playing in vineyards to a visionary for the family’s wine portfolio almost 30 years ago. “There wasn’t anyone here at the time. We went through the whole cycle of the wine industry.” They grew Zinfandel during the height of the White Zin craze, empowered the region’s Bordeaux boom and were an early adopter of the Rhône grape movement.
By 1987, they were partnering with Paso’s earliest winemakers to make their own wines. The cases grew exponentially when they teamed with Chuck Wagner of Caymus to produce his value-minded Liberty School wines. In 1995, the Hopes decided to launch a premium wine brand called Treana, under the leadership of Austin’s uncle, Paul Hope. When Paul died suddenly, Austin, fresh out of college at just 22 years old, was thrown into the fire.
“We didn’t know what we needed. We were as green as it gets,” said Hope of his first few years. “It was a real struggle to put a red table wine out for $35 in 1998 from a little town called Paso Robles, which no one had ever heard of.”
But he’s never looked back, and ultimately led the Treana and Liberty School labels into the modern era while simultaneously launching others, including labels Troublemaker, Quest and his eponymous Austin Hope. “We really just want to be able to have a product for everybody at every price point that over-delivers in each segment,” says Hope, whose prices range from about $15 to more than $100.
The family also helped create the Paso Robles Wine Alliance in the 1980s and was a critical player in the creation of the region’s 11 different sub-appellations. Hope refers to this latter contribution as a wise way of promoting the region’s eclectic topography yet keeping the name “Paso Robles” at the forefront. “We always spoke of Paso as a whole. We aggressively stood on that and spoke about not fragmenting the region,” said Hope. “Whether it’s Adelaida or Templeton Gap or Willow Creek, they’re all great. The takeaway is the diversity of Paso.”
Hope, whose two daughters are already working in the family business, wants Paso to be known globally. “I think that’s very possible in my lifetime,” he said. “We’re trying to create a legacy region, something that will be here and stand the test of time.”